Don Blankenship — a former energy executive who served time in prison for a major coal mine disaster in 2010 — is claiming the Department of Justice is investigating his conviction of being responsible in the mine incident.
Blankenship is running for the Republican Senate nomination in West Virginia.
“It has already been established beyond all doubt that the prosecution in my case withheld information from my attorneys and me, that should have been provided before my trial,” Blankenship said in a campaign statement released Wednesday. He also announced that the DOJ has provided his lawyers with new information since his trial. “Because of this withheld information, it is my understanding from my attorneys that the actions of the prosecution are being reviewed by the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).”
However, it has not yet been independently verified if the DOJ is actually looking into his prosecution.
“The Department generally does not confirm, deny, or otherwise comment on the existence of investigations,” spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in a statement to E&E News. The Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Blankenship’s announcement came just before the eighth anniversary of the disaster that killed 29 miners in Upper Big Branch, a West Virginia mine he managed through Massey Energy. Upon an investigation and trial stemming from the April 2010 disaster, Blankenship was found guilty of violating safety rules. He ultimately served one year in prison and was released in 2017.
The former CEO of Massey Energy has continually maintained his innocence, blaming the disaster on federal regulators and claiming his conviction was the result of an Obama administration conspiracy to demonize the coal industry.
Blankenship is running to take on West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who is up for re-election this year. The state has heavily trended red over the years and is considered a prime pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans. However, Blankenship must first succeed in a competitive Republican primary, where he trails Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
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